An old joke begins by declaring that heaven is a place where all the chefs are French, all the mechanics are German, all the policemen are British, all the diplomats are Swiss and all the lovers are Italian. (Hell, as you might guess, places these national stereotypes in the wrong roles.)
Following this line, in heaven, are the IR professionals American? Recent trends in London seem to confirm this. CVC Capital Partners, the giant London-based private equity firm with significant operations in Asia, recently hired Jason Blattberg, an investment officer at the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), to CVC's investor relations team. Blattberg will work with James Joy, another American, in covering North American limited partners. No word yet on where Blattberg will be based.
Blattberg got to know the partners at CVC because CalSTRS is an investor in its funds. The pension has more than $1 billion committed to five CVC funds.
Hiring US investor relations professionals is in fashion in London. In 2004, Cinven hired Alexandra Hess away from New York-based Oak Hill Capital Management to join the London firm's IR team.
London-based Terra Firma Capital Partners employs Bill Miles, an American, to handle investor relations for North American LPs.
BC Partners has Kevin O'Donohue in New York as its North American investor relations team member. The list goes on.
European private equity firms are hiring US professionals to cover US investors for the same reason they are hiring German executives to oversee German portfolio companies – local knowledge. While European institutional investors have come into private equity in a big way, the lion's share of investment capital continues to reside in the US. Managing these crucial relationships is now seen as worthy of a full-time professional – perhaps even a team of professionals. A former pension official like Blattberg understands better than anyone how the gears turn at public institutions, and can advocate CVC' s strategy to US institutions in a very effective manner.
Especially at public US pensions, turnover is endemic – witness the departure of Blattberg. All the more reason to have someone on staff who can keep up with a roster of relationships that is constantly in flux.